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Robert Wendland’s condition worsens

Lodi News-Sentinel

July 17, 2001

By Julie Z. Giese/News-Sentinel staff writer

The condition of Robert Wendland, a Lodi man who has become the focus of a national right-to-life case, has worsened, officials said.

Wendland has been on life support at Lodi Memorial Hospital’s long-term care unit after he was severely injured in a car accident in 1993.

Lawrence Nelson, a San Francisco attorney for Wendland’s wife and conservator, Rose, said Wendland has been ill for almost two weeks, but declined to comment further.

Lodi attorney Janie Hickok Siess, who represents his mother, Florence Wendland, said information about Robert Wendland’s deteriorating health is being withheld from the family.

“We don’t know anything,” she said. “We don’t know what’s wrong with him.”

Florence Wendland discovered last week her son was hooked up to additional tubes, felt clammy and appeared to have trouble breathing when she visited him in the hospital.

Siess filed a motion last Wednesday in San Joaquin County Superior Court, requesting the family be updated with information about his health, but a judge denied the request.

The motion also requested that Robert Wendland’s sister be allowed to visit her brother and that an independent doctor evaluate his condition.

Siess has filed an appeal with the 3rd District Court of Appeal in Sacramento and is awaiting a decision, she said.

The conservator rights case received national attention when Rose Wendland wanted to remove the feeding tube providing nourishment to her husband and allow him to die.

Robert Wendland, then 41 and a Stockton resident, suffered major brain damage when his truck rolled off the embankment of the Interstate 5 onramp from Highway 12. He’s been unable to speak, feed or care for himself since.

Florence Wendland has fought the removal of the feeding tube from local courts to the California Supreme Court, which heard arguments in May and has yet to rule in the case.

In the motion, Florence Wendland contends Rose Wendland has abused her authority as conservator by restricting visits with family members and failing to inform them about his condition.

Florence Wendland is concerned her son may be dying and that she might not get to say goodbye, according to court records.

The motion also said she has regularly visited her son, wheeling him through the hospital corridors, reading, singing and taking him to the multipurpose room where he participated in painting, bowling and adapted golfing.

Those visits have been restricted to only his hospital room in the last month, Siess said.

Siess said Florence Wendland visited her son in the hospital Monday and his condition hadn’t improved.

Nelson said Rose Wendland has asked her husband’s condition be kept private and that visitors be kept to a minimum and restricted to the room because of his illness.

He called the case’s latest development nonsense.

“What (Florence Wendland) is asking the court to do is an unprecedented action,” Nelson said.

Nelson said Rose Wendland is also tired of Florence Wendland exaggerating her husband’s functional abilities.

“It’s a misrepresentation of Robert’s medical condition,” he said.

Florence Wendland referred calls to her attorney Monday. Rose Wendland was unable to be reached for comment.